“Soleil O has a syncopated, eruptive tone that reminds me of the stylistically disruptive tone of some French-speaking black writers such as Frantz Fanon, Léon Damas and Aimé Césaire.” —Jump Cut
Med Hondo, with Sembene and a very few others, is truly a giant of first-generation African cinema. Born in Mauritania, he has made prize-winning films in France, Niger, and Senegal, both as actor and director. “Soleil O” is a song sung by African captives en route to slavery in the Caribbean: its use as the title underlines Hondo’s belief that African labor migration to Europe is a contemporary form of slavery. Focusing on a man newly arrived in France, the film details the systematic racism in labor, housing, and French society overall. But the film does not take the form of grim social realism: it is avant-garde, fast-moving, and at times surreal—think Jean Genet or Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or. 1967, France/Mauritania, in French and Arabic with English subtitles, 98 minutes. Video courtesy the Institut Français.
Introduced by Charles Sugnet, University of Minnesota.